Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Swallows' Flight | A slice of summer in Devon's South Hams

Now that we're past midsummer and the nights will begin to get longer again (thanks winter-loving friend who reminded me of this on Friday!), the possibility of a super summer like last year is fast slipping through our fingers. This month has been wall-to-wall rain, which has made me extra grateful for that sun-soaked Easter weekend we enjoyed in Devon a few months back. 

The long bank holiday weekend meant a rare two-kid total, which made it easier to find a little bolthole to book at the last minute. Swallows' Flight is near to Kingsbridge in south Devon, which is where my grandma lived and therefore the location for most of my childhood holidays. The countryside is full of memories for me, so much so that I think it might even be my muse - the words just kept flowing as we bounced along country roads. When (not if) I get to write my novel, it'll be Devon I'll choose as a writing hideaway, complete with regular doses of beach.

Last minute often means second best but Swallows' Flight is one of the loveliest places we've ever stayed. There are a couple of accommodation options, including a beautiful barn that sleeps four and a vintage Airstream for two adults and four kids, both of which have a private wood-fired hot tub close by. The dream!

The kids could not have loved the Airstream more - it felt both vintage and futuristic at the same time. They'd never seen anything like it. I'm not a natural camper (as I've confessed before) so having a. beds with cosy duvets, b. running water close by, and c. an actual kitchen as well as a barbecue and fire pit, is my ideal solution. Close by was The Nest - a dry and cosy room with dining table and a couple of easy sofas, which made for an ideal den post-hot tub/BBQ where we watched films as dusk fell. The hot tub itself was the focus of our long weekend. The boys adored bobbing around in there in the warm water and, once they'd gone to bed, so did we.

Swallows' Flight owners, Lucy and Dan, have made their home and business incredibly welcoming. We let them know in advance about T's autism (and propensity to be very noisy!) and they were entirely accommodating and generous to us. With a large garden, five acres of open fields, a play area and a courtyard in which to roam, we picked the right place for the kids to go wild. Even the lawn and trampoline in front of the family's own house were not out of bounds to guests - I fell in love with the farmhouse, with its kids' drawing symmetry and the monkey puzzle tree that's as old as the house. The Victorian hothouse was warm and inviting, its apricot trees not yet fruiting but green and abundant nonetheless.

The walled garden which contains the Airstream will eventually house several holiday homes, looking in on the large grassed area (which makes for the perfect croquet lawn/badminton court) but, for now, the Airstream enjoys the luxury of plenty of open space and privacy. The tension between wanting to feel welcomed and wanting your own space is always there with holiday lets, but Lucy and Dan tread the line perfectly. Dan's in the ice cream business, which means there's endless ice cream practically on tap, while Lucy's previous life as a conference producer living out of hotel rooms makes her perfectly placed to know just when guests need contact and when they'd rather be left alone. The kids were thrilled that the Devon Easter bunny left out oodles of chocolate for them on Easter Sunday - the loveliest touch, that made us feel more like family friends than guests.

And the location? Well, I may be biased but this stretch of coastline is pretty much the finest our emerald isle has to offer. As per the aforementioned fiction, here's a par I penned a while back for lovely Lionheart mag:

'We knew all the beaches nearby – Bantham, Bigbury, Blackpool Sands. Where was best for crabbing, bits of bacon dangling down from pontoons. Which man and which van sold the fattest, Flakiest ice creams. Which sands had dunes where adders lived. Long days were spent by the waves, the salt and sand washed away again in the old enamel bath each evening. ‘You’ve brought half the beach home with you,’ mum would say. I watched as the shower head raced grains of sand towards the plughole finish-line.'

If you'd rather have a less whimsical beach guide, here goes.

Blackpool Sands - Wide expanse of shingly beach cove, plus a cafe and bucket-and-spade shop. Parking a bit pricey.

South Milton Sands - Massive stretch of sand with an inlet perfect for paddling. Also has a good caff, National Trust owned.

East Portlemouth - Opposite Salcombe with a weeny ferry shuttling between the two, this beach is a biggie. Very boaty, not so swimmy.

Slapton Sands - Long stretch of pebbly beach covering much ground on the way to Dartmouth, there's an old WWII tank up one end, plus shops/chippies and a nature reserve.

Bantham - Giant dunes (the aforementioned adders) with a decent pub, overlooking Burgh Island with its Art Deco charm and Bigbury Bay. Great for surfing. Boden apocalypse.

When you have kids, all you really want is for them to have a lovely time, all the time, and to make memories wherever you go. Sadly, we all know that the tendency is for someone to be in a mood or someone to be ill or something to go wrong - that's just life, of course, and with a humungous family like ours the odds are greater.

But there are times when it all seems to go to plan and you don't want to consciously notice just in case fate spots you having a lovely time and tries to derail it all. Sometimes, all the important stuff goes to plan and it's all good - these are the times to cling to.

Swallows' Flight was one of those times.

The details

Stay in the Swallows' Flight Airstream by booking with Canopy & Stars or direct with Lucy and Dan
Book Number One (the barn) on Airbnb or direct with Lucy and Dan.
Or try the Housekeepers' Quarters on Airbnb (part of the main farmhouse). 

Not used Airbnb yet? Get £25 off your first booking using this link (I get a small percentage too; this blog is a business, after all).

This is NOT a sponsored post!
We booked this holiday using the cold hard cash we earn doing our day jobs. 
All views, pics etc are ours and not in any way influenced editorially. 

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